Best free virtual reality apps for smartphones

With the release of Carphone Warehouse's Goji headset, virtual reality for smartphones has become more accessible than ever. You can now enjoy VR apps and games from the comfort of your home – and without breaking the bank.

Whether you're using Google Cardboard, the Goji VR or one of the many other gadgets available, we've picked out some of the best and most interesting virtual reality apps to enjoy on your headset!

In order to run most of these apps, you must already have the Google Cardboard app for Android installed on your handset – even if you're using a non-Cardboard headset.

Run the app to calibrate your device – and once it's complete, you can access features like Google Earth, Street View and Cardboard Camera, as well as seeing a list of Cardboard-compatible apps already installed on your smartphone.

Any new downloads will automatically appear in this section of the Google Cardboard app, so you won't have far to look – and the following is our pick of the best.

Jurassic VR

Lunagames Fun & Games Free
 
 
 
 
Jurassic VR

Jurassic VR puts you in a virtual world populated by dinosaurs, in which you can walk around and explore the landscape. It's a simple app that shows off how well 3D can work in Google Cardboard and similar devices – and is ideal for anyone who wants to live out a Jurassic Park fantasy!

There are no buttons to use in Jurassic VR: simply look in the direction you'd like to walk in, and your character will walk slowly in that direction. And I do mean slowly! It's more of a snail's pace – but the dinosaurs you'll encounter move much faster.

Indeed, things can get pretty tense when you turn your head and see a raptor running towards you in the corner of your eye – although in this game, the dinosaurs are harmless. For now.

Wizard Academy

Realiteer Corp. Free
 
 
 
 
Wizard Academy

This is the most interactive of the apps I've tried for mobile VR so far, putting you in the shoes of a wizard exploring a small town and using your magic to clean things up as you go. To focus your wand, simply stare at the object you want to hurl magic at – the game will do the rest!

There's plenty of help at the beginning to help you get used to the limited controls, which comes in handy – as you'll need to physically walk on the spot in order to move around in game. Alternatively, you can jog your VR headset up and down, which tricks your phone into thinking you're walking.

This actually works surprisingly well, and within minutes I was wandering around the town, cleaning lumps of green goo from everything I could find. A great game which really does show what these simple VR headsets can be capable of.

Orbulus

VRCraftworks Free
 
 
 
 
Orbulus

Orbulus is simply a gallery of 360-degree panoramic images you can enjoy from a virtual reality perspective. Whether you want to enjoy the Northern Lights in the snow or stand proudly on the surface of Mars, there are plenty of landscapes to drop in and out of.

Simply stare at the scene you'd like to experience until the loading completes and the image generates around you. Then you can look around and enjoy the view!

This app isn't particularly interactive, but it doesn't need to be to demonstrate how beautiful the world can be – or how immersive this particular type of VR is. A truly pleasurable app which I'll be keeping installed to enjoy again in the future.

Glitcher VR

dystopia zero Free
 
 
 
 
Glitcher VR

Glitcher fits under the category of 'augmented reality' as opposed to virtual reality: instead of putting you in a virtual environment, it augments your actual environment by adding some great filters to your vision!

You'll be able to enjoy inverse colours, or see everything as if it's recorded on a VHS or viewed through an Apple IIc CRT monitor. You can even switch to 'Predator' mode (see above) and feel like a monster while you stalk your friends and workmates!

The filters are all very impressive, and I found myself switching between them frequently. Glitcher can be controlled either by using the magnetic button on the side of your Cardboard headset, by tapping the volume keys on the side of your phone or even by voice commands. That's right, you can tell Glitcher which filter to switch to, and it will follow your instructions! Pretty fantastic, and well worth a download.

Star Wars VR

Disney Free
 
 
 
 
Star Wars VR

Star Wars is one of the most popular film series of all time, and it was inevitable that it would eventually make its way on to our smartphones. This app is more than just a Google Carboard tie-in, offering all kinds of Star Wars goodies for those that download it!

For Cardboard users, open the app and tap on 'Jakku Spy' to fire up a selection of short virtual reality films. Tap on a chapter to watch it in an immersive, virtual environment and enjoy being 'inside' a Star Wars story!

The graphics are attractive and there are quite a few videos to enjoy in the VR series – although each video is quite brief, so you may want to rewatch a couple. If you're a fan of Star Wars and enjoyed the new film, you're sure to love Star Wars VR!

Sisters

Otherworld Interactive Free
 
 
 
 
Sisters

A virtual horror game for mobile VR , Sisters is a simple yet immersive experience which does a great job of putting you on edge. Chilling sounds and an environment which responds and reacts to the objects you're looking at are only the start of this game's creepiness.

There aren't many horror titles for mobile VR – and the few which are available tend not to be that scary. Sisters certainly changed my opinion of that! I was actually a little nervous taking the headset off when I was finished in case there was someone else in the room with me. Best enjoyed with headphones on.

Within - VR

VRSE Free
 
 
 
 
Within VR

This app is actually many VR experiences in one! It offers links to some of the most popular and highly acclaimed virtual reality videos and 360-degree panoramic photos available, from sources like Vice News, the New York Times and more. Even bands like U2 and Muse have videos to enjoy, putting you right at the centre of the action!

This is another app which sees frequent updates adding more and more content all the time. Right now, the short film Take Flight is listed – featuring stars like Melissa McCarthy, Michael Fassbender, Benicio del Toro and Charlize Theron leaping around in wires and harnesses to make something spectacular.

If you want to enjoy some of the highest-quality virtual reality videos for your device, you can't go wrong with Within.

VR Cosmic Rollercoaster

Raiz Free
 
 
 
 
VR Cosmic Rollercoaster

Journey through space on an epic rollercoaster adventure in this casual app for mobile VR headsets. While not very interactive (or informative), it is very attractive – and works well to make you feel like you're travelling through the cosmos!

In fact, there are many rollercoaster-type VR apps to choose from, but this stood out for me as being one of the most visually satisfying ones. There isn't much replay value to Cosmic Rollercoaster, but it certainly does a great job of showing off how great the VR effects in Google Cardboard and similar devices can be.

Chrome Experiments for Virtual Reality

Google Inc. Free
 
 
 
 
Chrome Experiments for VR

If you want to see what kind of madness Google itself experiments with in VR, look no further than the Chrome Experiments website. Browse the site from your smartphone – then place it in your VR headset to enjoy the weird and wonderful browser-based apps available.

As this is web-based, you'll find frequent updates and less storage space taken up on your handset, so bookmark the page and enjoy to your hearts content! There are even experiments which don't rely on virtual reality – like the popular Lightsaber Escape game, which sees you using your phone as a Lightsaber to combat enemies on your TV screen.

Explore the site and see what gems you can unearth - there's plenty to pick from!

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